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Space Jam

UDOB1 - Released for Copper Quake on June 20th, 2019

First maps are important, and the first map of Underdark Overbright had a lot on its plate. I'd made a broad set of tweaks and upgrades to Quake's gameplay with Copper, and I needed a level that would provide a scaffold for teaching some of the most important differences. I'd recently enjoyed some community maps that made a lot of hay leading the player in and out of a single reused space, and found myself thinking in the same terms as I jammed on this level's central cavern, dividing it into tight narrow alleys below and wide open rooftop crossfire above.

I had recently admired another custom Quake level for being a meditation on a single space - a tower in the center the player regularly moves into and out of on their way to the top, and used the one-room concept as a starting point, pushing myself to knock out at least the broad strokes on a short, game-jam-like timer (henceforth the goofy name). Rather than a tower, I got mileage out of the space by dividing it into something resembling alleys and rooftops, albeit more Quake-abstract.

Since I wanted more controlled, exact setups for the sake of engineering the instructive moments, I decided early that I wouldn't shy away from the sometimes cheesy convention of everything the player touches being an ambush. If implemented well (meaning, with plenty of variety, without relying on this pattern in the absence of any other ideas), it makes the game world feel like it has its own malevolent, clockwork personality, and that it will exact its price for every bit of progress.

The first change to illustrate was to shotguns, to make them more satisfying for crowd control. This fit best in the cramped spaces of the lower level. Two necessary buttons are tied to two run-of-the-mill monster-closet ambushes, both of which channel groups of weak monsters through narrow choke points. The player is granted the SSG up front, and has no choice but to slam away at these crowds, with the intention being to make the different feel of the weapon hard to miss.

The player is diverted from the main room twice. The first time is down below, where a trapped nailgun locks the player into a long barred corridor and reveals more monsters of the type from the previous two traps, except this time it's the player's movement that's restrained.

Next was demonstrating an upgrade to the nailgun, now more effective at range than the starter shotgun, and changes to the monsters the player would soon be shooting with it: Ogres, no longer vertically exploitable; Enforcers, who now open up on you like chaingunners; and Vores, no longer unfair to a player without cover. All four changes illustrate themselves nicely in the open spaces of the upper level, and I introduce one or two of each monster at a time in isolation so they don't distract the player from each other's lessons.

The first Vore I introduce immediately after the nailgun ambush space as the final guardian of the elevator from the lower to upper level, where the player still has some cover but a little ways behind them. This helps ensure that even players who didn't read the changelist and flee from the exposed Vore have to back up far enough that there's a better chance they'll notice its projectile steering differently.

Beyond that, it's a very straightforward level, with a gold key and door both plainly visible from anywhere on the upper level. Seeking the gold key leads the player into our second side area, where narrow space and vertical threats are combined to push the player back into deciding for themself which of their weapons to apply when. The second Vore pops out at them when they're on the way to the door with it, this time wide open with no cover, but players should be a little more confident in this situation now.

A last-minute change to add an early nailgun in a secret in the starting room (behind the player, where I expected no one to look) did more harm than good when it turned out that in fact nearly everyone thought to look there, and thus nearly everyone started with a nailgun. Not only did this cheapen the lure of the bait nailgun in the cage ambush, it also ensured that almost no players were using the double shotgun in the intended crowd fights, so the improved feel of the weapon remained lost on players until circumstances aligned by chance at some later time (if ever). This secret was replaced with an invisibility item in a patch, which helped players who found it to notice what I wanted them to notice, more safely and with less distraction.

Play It

Both Copper Quake and Underdark Overbright can be acquired from Copper's Download page.